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Supporting Veteran Owned Small Businesses

This video shares examples of a few veteran owned small businesses. Feel free to comment and share your own examples with website link belo...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Adopt a People-Centric Approach to Improve Customer Satisfaction and Profitability

Does a leader need to be the smartest person in the company to achieve growth and customer satisfaction? No.

In fact, being the smartest person in the company can actually impede growth. Some leaders just can't get over "themselves." Yet unfortunately when you suggest that they could be the problem, it's often met with one of the following responses:

* Confusion (i.e. you talking to me?)
* Dismissive (i.e. you have no idea what you're talking about)
* Shock (i.e. how dare you talk to me that way)
* Anger (i.e. you're out of here)

After all, they are the smartest person in the company. They know the problems, they know what needs to be done, and they will do it.

We have a (perhaps unwelcome) secret to share...

No one is that smart. No one can do it all exceptionally alone (at least for long.) And talented employees want to contribute and show their talent.

The greatest risk in this self-delusional thinking is that your brightest employees will actually be the ones that bring you out of the recession stronger. Limit their chance to do so-- dim their opportunity-- and your great employees will leave, with the remaining employees just doing just what they are told, and the replacement employees will be less talented.

Whom does this adversely affect outside of the leader and your employees? Your customer. Who benefits? Your competition!

It is essential for leaders to understand that customer service is the lifeblood of their business. (Yes we are aware that cash is king and without positive cash flow the business ceases to exist. Without satisfied customers, however there is no cash. And without satisfied and engaged employees there are no customers - satisfied or not!) So let's see take a critical look at what the most successful corporations, organizations and companies are doing different.

Why Nordstrom, Zappos, Apple and Netflix Ranks High in Customer Satisfaction.

Are the companies listed above perfect? Of course not. Are they serious competitors? Absolutely. How are they differentiating their customer service from others in their industry? They are using an employee-centric approach to heighten their customer service. The premise of "The Service-Profit Chain" (first developed at Harvard University by James L Heskett) speaks to this approach. It's premise is simple: highly satisfied customers drive growth and profitability, and highly equipped and satisfied employees will better satisfy customers to drive that growth. Otherwise said, employees with the skills and power to really serve their customer have an increased employee satisfaction, productivity and loyalty which in turn leads directly to increased service to the customer, meaning greater customer satisfaction and loyalty, which of course, leads to greater revenue. Most simply stated, satisfied employees are a critical contributor to customer satisfaction!

We see this as an employee driven profit model - and it's "people centric", which to us is the heart of your business.

Results Our Clients Are Achieving Using A People-Centric Model

One healthcare software consulting company survived the recession relatively unscathed. Another grew over 38% percent during the heart of the recession. How? By providing personalized and highly focused customer service.

As small businesses re-surface post-recession and look to differentiate themselves and grow, improving customer service through a people-centric approach will be an important strategy to adopt.

So, when leaders start to think about growth- they should start first with their customers and how to provide value, and realize that it's their employees that are the golden egg. Then the conclusion is inescapable: prepare and support your employees to provide outstanding service and your customers will reward your efforts.

Sara LaForest and Tony Kubica are management consultants with more than 50+ years of combined experience in helping organizations improve their business performance. They say, failing to adopt a people-centic approach to increase customer satisfaction is just one way to sabotage your business growth. Get their complete "Self-Sabotage in Business White Paper" now at: KubicalaForestConsulting.com

Monday, April 25, 2011

Small Business Growth Quiz – 7 Market Focused Questions You Must Ask To Help You Grow

There is a lot of attention directed at small businesses this year. President Obama talked about the need to help and support small businesses in his State of the Union address. And one outcome was the launch of Startup America. Also, states are talking about easing regulations and the tax burden on small businesses in their quest to reduce unemployment.

Is this the year of the small business?
Possibly.

Is this an opportunity for you as a small business owner?
Maybe.

Now, a Warning to Small Business Owners...

As a small business owner, however, it is not a good strategy to hope that the federal or state governments will pass the right legislation and write regulations, which will help you succeed in the next 12 months. Hope may spring eternal, but it is not a good business strategy.

Be wary of generalizations about how the economy is doing: who the winners are and who the losers are or will be. It's distracting and frankly, it's filled with conflicting information.

It's like trying to decide on what is the best way to add 10 years to your life. You would be correct if you said – it depends on whom you ask. A dietician will tell you to focus on good nutrition. A trainer will tell you to exercise and use protein supplements. Some physicians would say hormone therapy. As the adage goes: when all you have is a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.

Yes, we'll admit that the economy is showing signs of recovery, but the real question is... whether it's showing signs of recovery for you and your business. To answer this question you need to stop thinking like a small business owner and start thinking that you are running a multi-million dollar enterprise. Why, because many small business owners tend to think like a small company. And the answer to growth is to think big.

Here Are 7 Questions to Think About and Respond to When Planning for Business Growth:

1. Do you have a strategic vision that outlines your business direction for the next 12 – 24 months? And if you have employees, do they know it?

2. What is your stated mission (or purpose) statement? How is it communicated to your employees, and how does it help drive business decisions?

3. Do you have stated, written and practiced company values to align how you and your employees work together and serve your customers?

4. Do you have a branding strategy that promotes how you want to be seen by prospects and clients and articulates your competitive advantage or differentiation from your competitors?

5. Do you have standard monthly financial reports to track the financial health of your business and to help drive your decisions?

6. Do you have outstanding customer service? If you can't answer based on your customer's feedback, loyalty, references and testimonials – your answer is not yet.

7. Do you have an exit strategy for your business? Every business needs to have a sense of what the end game will look like. It drives growth and helps focus business decisions.

How did you do in answering these questions? Did you have thoughtful and detailed answers for each question? When we talk to small business owners about these questions they often remind us that they are small businesses and not GE, Nordstrom's or Zappos. And that's the problem.

We have also seen companies that believe answering questions such as these is a waste of time.

Why Our 7 Vital Questions for Small Business Owners Who Want to Grow Their Business Is NOT a Waste of Time?

A small research oriented company who had been in business for 10 years was modestly successful. They were concerned, however, that although they were able to come up with a strategic plan every year, they were not disciplined enough to implement the tactics required to achieve the plan. And they really didn't have to. Business came in and they were comfortable. You have likely heard us reference that success can be your greatest inhibitor to growth. And, the issue for them was that they weren't growing.

They decided to re-focus their efforts on growth. To do that they:

1. Looked deep inside themselves and their business and discovered they were missing a number of ingredients for small business growth success. They uncovered this realization simply by honest answering our 7 questions.

2. Established company values to guide their work together and in serving their clients

3. Created their strategic vision (ideal future state)

4. Refined their purpose (or mission) statement

5. Identified key strategies and tactics to implement the vision and created accountability by assigning those to lead individuals. Progress on tactics was reviewed quarterly, with general updates given monthly.

6. Candidly discussed how they worked together and how work should be distributed to take advantage of each partner's strengths

7. Identified their target market and the market niche

8. Created tracking and reporting tools and a process to monitor sales

9. Created a financial reporting system, reviewing it monthly and using ratio analysis to do a year over year comparison

10. They are embarking on a re-branding strategy

11. They are working to identify and develop an exit strategy

They started this initiative in 2008. 2009 was the best financial performance year they had in the company's 10-year history. 2010 was almost 40% higher than 2009. And note this was accomplished in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

So what really happened? Were they lucky? Were they in the right place at the right time? No - neither of these can explain their growth. What they did was stop thinking small. They stopped behaving like a "mom and pop shop" and decided to focus on growth.

So, we encourage you to take a dispassionate view of your business. Stop listening to the generalities and honestly and thoughtfully respond to your own market-focused questions we suggested. Thinking small will keep you small; thinking big and planning big will lay the path to your growth.

Management Consultants and Business Performance Improvement Specialists Sara Laforest and Tony Kubica have 50+ years of combined experience in helping small and large entrepreneurial businesses accelerate their business growth in record times. Now, you can learn how to think big and avoid the self-sabotaging behaviors that most owners possess at: KubicaLaforestConsulting.com

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Small Business Tip ..... Critical Steps In Setting Up A Conference Call

The following are 10 indispensable steps for coordinating a conference call .....

1. Select an opportune date and time and be certain that the concerned participants are well informed.

2. Supervise your calls by contacting your service provider and ensuring your subscription is paid.

3. The toll free number and pin number must be given to all participants beforehand.

4. To avoid confusion, book a time slot.

5. On the date of the meeting, participants have to phone the toll free number and have to enter the pin number. Immediately after performing the said procedure, the conference can now take place.

6. The host of the call is the person who has paid the subscription and who directs the conference. And if he/she terminates the call, the conference ends; if not, the call continues.

7. In order to share data or illustrations, you need to establish the call as a web conference.

8. Constantly monitor call quality so you can provide feedback to the provider later if needed, and to participants during the call if necessary.

9. Keep in mind that nearly all conference providers charge you per minute, and the billing cycle takes about 30 days.

10. Investigate reviews about the dependability of service, and whether the service provider makes use of digital lines before registering. Choose wisely ahead of time as it's too late once the call starts.

For those who are looking for a quality conferencing provider I always recommend AccuConference. They are very cost effective, offer impressive and flexible feature packages including web conferencing, and are top of the line for customer support. You can learn more about them here:

Voice and Web Conferencing Service

Monday, April 18, 2011

Small Business Tip ..... How To Prevent Data Loss

To prevent data loss, there are several steps that must be taken to ensure valuable data is not loss in the event of hardware failure or other unfortunate events. Data backup is no longer an option, but a necessity. Here’s what to do:

* ALWAYS have external media in place to backup data to.

This includes external USB hard drives, memory cards, DVDs, CDs etc. By utilizing a second form of backup in addition to your hard drive, you are a step closer to a complete backup program. We recommend an external USB hard drive, that is at LEAST 500GB or larger, if you download large files and or collect music, pictures, and other large files – the more space the better. This drive should only be turned on to copy/clone current data, and should be stored in a safe place away from the computer, in the event of fire, flood, etc.

* Remember that only certain files can be backed up.

Pictures, music, documents, videos etc. Software can not be backed up, but settings and configuration files etc can be backed up and imported after re-installing a program; allowing a user to resume the same settings, information etc. If you are interested in backing up an actual program so that it can be restored later, you will only have the option of saving the.exe file, and reinstalling the program again in the event of data loss or re-installation of your operating system.

*It is HIGHLY recommended to create separate “partitions” for your hard drive, when you are installing an operating system such as Windows.

Creating a primary partition (C:) for Windows data, a second partition (D:) for YOUR data, and so on.

By using this configuration, you are able to keep your data partition intact in the event of the C: becoming unbootable, by reinstalling Windows on the C: partition and accessing your data. The data accessed in this method can either be kept on the drive, or copied and pasted elsewhere.

* When using an email client such as Outlook, keep your files on the server.

In Microsoft Outlook and other email client programs, you have the option to keep your emails on the actual server, instead of downloading them to your client only.

In other words, if you don’t choose “keep copy of file(s) on server”, the email that is downloaded to your client software will most likely NOT remain on the server. When it is time to access your email through your browser, the emails that were downloaded onto your computer will no longer be visible through the browser. They will be “gone.”

How does this relate to backup? Well…we all have important email that we do not wish to lose, or can’t lose. If we retain the email on our provider’s server, there will always be a copy when we need it, in the event the email on our computer is lost.

* Pickup a copy of a program called Acronis True Image.

Highly recommended! This program will allow you to use a feature called “Cloning.” Cloning is performed when the software takes an exact “copy” of your hard drive which contains your operating system. In the event your hard drive fails or cannot be accessed due to virus or other issues, you can use the “cloned” drive and resume your computing as if nothing ever happened!

Acronis has many other features, and there are several types of software that can perform many of the same tasks, but we have more experience with Acronis for data backup and to prevent data loss. We in no way are endorsing this company as we receive no compensation for our recommendation. Good software though!

* Use more than one backup medium.

In addition to having an external drive(s), CDs, DVDs, cloning your drive etc; it is highly advisable to use a third media type to backup your data to. To better understand; your hard drive contains your operating system which allows you to boot into Windows for example.

The second media type (preferably external hard drive), allows you to copy your critical data to have a backup copy used to store in a safe place away from your computer.

This THIRD backup media will be used to backup the data from the 1st and/or 2nd drive as a safety precaution in case the 1st and 2nd media fail unexpectedly.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Change Happens - Does Your Business Change To Meet It?

"Business" is not a process, its a "service" in that your business must offer and deliver what it's buying public needs, wants and will pay for.

Change, always happening like it or not, is always impacting the "game rules" for doing that however. Change is not easy nor any fun to deal with That means seeing and proactively innovating or retooling to survive and thrive in the face of change is critical in this “service” we call “business”.
Change, with its unknowns and new rules is a  constant challenge to us and our conducting our business, is all around us. Its in innovation, on line methods that replace off line methods, software managed processes, automated systems integration. Its especially noticeable in the way we begin our sourcing and buying research via the web rather than in person.  Change and innovation, however, are not the habits we encourage in our managers. Managers are implementers – and that’s a serious problem for surviving and thriving as a business.
  • If you and your company do not change and innovate, change happens anyway and the company goes away.
  • Seeing indicators of change and then proactively managing so you can change. Is a process.
  • Being on the lookout for changes, trends, buying slips, why a customer has left, the types of customer service requests, complaints, what sales is saying about emerging competition, new approaches, applications & solutions, less leads from your lead engines - that's the part we forget to monitor and review.
  • Yet that's the part that shows us change is in process. It shows us where we need to innovate and change plus the why of doing so.
Remember, "business" is not a process, its really a "service" in that The business must offer and deliver what its buying public needs, wants and will pay for. The need for specific “services” ebb and flow and of course the “service” offered v what’s needed changes.

Proactively seeing this and managing your “services” so you are in sync with and even ahead of change isn’t as simple as obligating a % of annual revenues as required to be used  innovation for change. Boards and companies may obligate innovation money but the company still needs an innovative mentality, not a management mentality or the obligated cash will never be used properly.

Example - Innovating a faster order to shipping speed-great but if a better solution for doing what you company "sells" is emerging or the needs of your customers have changed, that "innovation" has no impact on staying in business. It fixes an issue but not the overall issue of seeing and proactively managing s
As stated,
  • Being on the lookout for changes, trends, buying slips, why a customer has left, the types of customer service requests, complaints, what sales is saying about emerging competition, new approaches, applications & solutions, less leads from your lead engines - that's the part we forget to monitor and review.
  • Yet that's the part that shows us change is in process. It shows us where we need to innovate and change plus the why of doing so.
Try to make a habit of paying attention to those areas. Then, lead the retooling and innovation that can keep you and your business valued, pertinent, current, market centric and ahead of the changes.

Neil Licht, CEO, Managing Change Division,  HereWeAre

Small Business Tip ..... Data Recovery Software

Data recovery software provides individuals and companies the ability to restore any files that have been permanently deleted, regardless of the cause. The majority of data recovery programs will recover any files lost as a result of a power surge, failed hard drive, virus attack, formatting loss, file corruption, unexpected system shutdown or system failure.

How it Works ....

When a file is “deleted” by the user, the file has not actually been removed from the computer, but rather, the information showing the location of the file has been deleted, and the hard drive has been given permission to write over the file. File recovery works by restoring the bit of information that shows were the file is located. Restoring files that have been corrupted, however, is, hit-or-miss. Data recovery software can work to recover the majority of the files, but random pieces of the file can be lost or written over, thereby making it corrupt and inaccessible.

Cost of Data Recovery Software ....

The price of file recovery software is extremely affordable, especially when compared to the cost of time loss incurred by having to manually relocate every file lost. Basic data recovery software can be found for around $30 (ideal for individual or personal use), and more advanced recovery software runs from $60 to $300 depending on the amount of different file formats needing recovery. Some software companies offer free trials, which will either a) locate and restore a small amount of files lost, or b) locate all files lost, but requires the software be purchased in order to complete the restoration.

How to Use Data Recovery Software ......

Installing and running software for data recovery does not require the assistance of an IT technician, and the majority of software companies provide 24/7 customer support. However, there are two major precautions to take before installing or downloading recovery software:

- If you’re downloading from the Internet: Download the software program to a different drive than where the file existed.

- If you’re installing on your computer: Install the software on an external hard drive or boot from the CD-ROM.

As previously discussed, a deleted file isn’t lost until new information is written over it. This can include the data recovery software itself.

Once the software has been installed, follow the on-screen instructions for restoring or locating the missing/deleted files.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Accepted "Expert Opinion" - Help or Hinderance in Life or Business? Whats Your Opinion?

We were given the power of reasoning so we could think. That affirmation in the age of the enlightenment of 1640 thru about 1790 was the enabling belief that allowed for us humans to use thinking and reasoning, not just the church and the bible to try and comprehend our world, its rules and make it better.

You know, Newton, Jefferson, Franklin-those folks.

They believed deeply in God but extended that to mean we have reasoning and thinking powers granted to us by God for a reason:

perfecting and improving our earthly lives in the here and now, not the here after.

If those folks had accepted the "proven" expert wisdom that God had a fate for all of us and God's will was behind everything us humans faced, there would be

* No democracy

* No modern science

* No medical breakthroughs

* No inventions

* No scientific method of inquiry and discovery

* No understanding of the laws of nature

* No social Darwinism

..... and who knows what else.

These astounding concepts were and are today all results of folks questioning the "expert" wisdom and instead, using their reasoning and thinking powers, seeking the "why" of something so they could understand it, manage it and improve or undo its impact on our lives.

Problem is many folks do not trust their ability to evaluate what they hear and know and apply it v the actual issues in front of them.

The expert "rules' are now once again, being challenged and dethroned because of our new world of on line everything as a resource. Its baffling to many and the  experts themselves have not yet figured it all out, espescially as a business tool.

Please comment on the ideas about using your own powers of reasoning and thinking and not the "experts" to meet the challenge that our on line world throws at our business side of life.

More strategy articles at: Small Business Success "How To" Articles

Regards,
Neil Licht,
CEO &Chief Adviser,
HereWeAre - Managing Change Group
How to Re Tool messaging and sales approaches to Capture Business in our "everything's a commodity" mentality Market Place

57 West Main Street
Marlborough, Ma 01752
(508) 481-8567, Cell (508) 341-9563
callhereweare@verizon.net
http://www.wix.com/ndlicht/hereweare

Monday, April 11, 2011

3 Simple Tips To More Twitter Followers

If you have a Twitter account, this article passes on what we've learned about growing the number of people who follow you at Twitter.

These 3 tips are simple, do-able, and they work!

#1 RE-broadcast your best tweets!

Once you log into your Twitter account, click on "Home." See the menu for "ReTweets?"

Select "Your Tweets, ReTweeted." and you'll see a list of your tweets that have been passed on by your followers.

Those with the most are, obviously, your best.

BUT how many saw them? A few percent, at best. After all, the time of day determines...

i) if you're awake (24 times zones in the world! ;-) )

ii) if you're at work

iii) if your routine dictates other activities

So ReTweet your best ones at various times of the day. Experiment and track what works best for you.

#2 Current Events

Find a hot story relevant to your audience. Post about it (ex., on your Facebook page or blog, or business website, etc.). Look for an original angle.

Then make a provocative tweet that sends folks to the post. This tip gives you TWO benefits...

i) more ReTweets, which brings new followers

ii) more comments to your post, as well as more people liking your Facebook Page (and the post) or subscribing to your feed (blog)

This double-dip is much stronger than just sending your followers to someone else's post.

And naturally, you're going to ReTweet these, right? :-)

#3 ReTweet Nothing But Quality

Tips 1 and 2 are about original content. Not every tweet needs to be original. Not every one should be.

You can ALSO add value to your followers if you carefully select excellent tweets to ReTweet, out of all that you read on a daily basis.

From these cherries, pick THE cherries that YOUR followers will find tastiest (that's Tip #1 above). Repeat twice or thrice during the day (Tip #2).

And that's it. Tips #1 and #2 are about YOUR original content. Tip #3 combines the first 2 when ReTweeting.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

5 Dangers Faced By Small Business .... And What To Do About Them

No one said starting a business was a walk in the park. The truth is just the opposite. Be realistic and persistent and you can be among those few who do make it. To arm yourself for the fight below is listed the risks most common to all SMB's .... together with suggestions on how to deal with them.

1. COMPETITION .... Most businesses have competition. How will your business differ in significant and positive ways from your competition? If your competition is strong, don't minimize that fact, but figure out ways you will adjust to or use that strength. For example, if you plan to open a restaurant next to an extremely popular one, part of your strategy might be to cater to the overflow. Another might be to open on days or evenings when the other restaurant is closed.

2. PIONEERING .... If you anticipate no direct competition, your business probably involves selling a new product or service, or one that is new to your area. How will you avoid going broke trying to develop a market?

3.CYCLES AND TRENDS .... Many businesses have cycles of growth and decline often based on outside factors such as taste, trends or technology. What is your forecast of the cycles and trends in your business? For example, if your forecast tells you that the new electronic product you plan to manufacture may decline in three years when the market is saturated, can you earn enough money in the meantime to make the venture worthwhile?

4. SLOW TIMES .... Every business experiences ups and downs. Is your business small and simple enough, or capitalized adequately enough, to ride out slow times? Or do you have some other strategy, such as staying open long hours in the busy season and closing during times of the year when business is ?

5. OWNERS EXPERTISE .... Nobody knows everything. How do you plan to compensate for the knowledge you're short on?

Write your risk analysis by first thinking of the main dangers your business faces. This shouldn't be hard, as you have probably been concerned about them for some time. Some of these may be on the list set out above; others will be unique to your business. Once you have identified the principal risks facing your business, write out a plan to counter each. But don't bog yourself down worrying about all sorts of unlikely disasters.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Small Business Taxes ..... Beating Up The Little Guy

Small business doesn't have access to many of the tax breaks available to larger corporations. It's really quite unfortunate given that 80% of all business is classified as small business in the US.

Over time, I think it will be more detrimental. All of the news over shrinking budgets among states and the fact that over 43 states are facing huge budget shortfalls, at some point taxes are going to rise. One of the most difficult taxes to swallow is the 15+% self employment tax. That one drives me crazy the most and when tacked on to a 35% tax bracket equals over 50%. Not much incentive to be in business on your own.

Unfortunately with the current governments and independent financial controls it is only getting worse...for all of us.

The next kick in the teeth for businesses, particularly in the western world is the "Carbon Tax" trade, scheme that the powers to be, are attempting to foist onto us all.

This is going to send many businesses in these Western countries to the wall. While China, India, and all the third world countries are allowed to further flourish and prosper with their loose governments, slave camp labor, and corrupt officials.

Have you ever tried reading the tax codes....? All 60,000 of them? It's ridiculous and the longer we allow the current system to go along, the deeper the pain is going to be.

As most governments print more money, who do you think is going to pay for that?

The people .... us.

What do YOU think? Feel free to share your view by leaving a comment.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

GROUP DEVELOPMENT – How It Impacts Small Business Work and Volunteer Activities

Did you know that groups go through stages of development, just as small businesses go through growth stages, and employees go through learning curves? Understanding the life cycle of a group can assist you as you attend or run meetings, work with your employees, or volunteer for nonprofit activities. The stages a group goes through are frequently referred to as: Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing.

FORMING takes place when a group first gets together. At this point excitement is high, and those involved are positively minded about what might be accomplished. Group members go through basic introductions and orientation with each other. Members may feel ambiguity and confusion as they get acquainted. As you interact and listen to what others are saying, you are sorting through who you may get along with the best. During this phase, what it means to be a group member becomes evident, and members work to move to similarities. Communication is superficial and polite. You just don’t feel like you know others well enough to disclose more. You stay away from conflict because you really want to be accepted into the group. The group is dependent on the leader for direction.

If you have ever moved to a new area, joined a new organization, or started work in a new place, you have experienced this. As you introduce yourself, you are absorbing the culture of the group. Within a short amount of time you know whom you will fit in the best with, and whether this is situation is a good fit for you. If there is no one calling the shots for barn policy, organization mission, or to provide workplace orientation, you will feel somewhat directionless. A good leader helps this first stage to go smoothly, minimizing the confusion of your new beginning.

The group then moves into the STORMING stage. STORMING is when the honeymoon is over. Think about when you first learned a new skill that was challenging – your initial reaction was probably, “This is really hard and I don’t know if I can really do this.” Or think about a time when you volunteered to help run a charitable event. At first you are really excited to be involved, and then you move to thinking you must have been crazy to get involved because you really didn’t know all that there was to it.You can probably recall thinking “Oh, this is way more than I had intended.” Your leader, or coach, needs to be giving you direction and lots of encouragement at this point for the group to move into the third stage.

The STORMING stage is characterized by power and influence issues. The decision-making process is established during this stage. Because of the uncertainty felt during FORMING, members attempt to create order and establish operating rules. Members may feel that the wrong approach is being taken, the group priorities aren’t the same as they had expected, or that they are better suited to take charge. This can result in attacks on the leadership. Some members may feel that it is harder than they thought to accomplish the group task. The group is counter-dependent on the leader.

Out of the “storm” and into NORMING, the group becomes cohesive. Conflict experienced during STORMNG is resolved, and the group’s trust level rises. The competition and testing that took place have now moved to problem solving. Negotiation takes place amongst members so that functional relationships are formed. You have had enough time with the others to determine who is comfortable and/or most skilled at doing the tasks that have been identified. The group is now interdependent with the leader, and leadership is shared. You feel like you are getting somewhere now, and are glad to be a part of this horse farm staff, horse association committee, or riding stable show team.

Finally, the group reaches the PERFORMING stage. This is where the group will achieve its greatest levels of productivity. Group members are collaborative, gain insight from each other, and find growth within the group. Friendships are formed, creativity is expressed in the tasks accomplished, and it’s fun and exciting to be a part of this group. Commitment is high in this stage. The group is interdependent with the leader, who can now delegate. People outside this group can see the vitality and achievement of the group, which makes the group attractive to others to want to be part of. Success breeds success. People seek you out to work with or to take on a volunteer role in your organization.

Groups can move quickly or slowly through these stages. It all depends on how well the members know each other and if they know how to deal with the issues. There may be times when the group doesn’t complete all the stages if people refuse to deal with the issues and push for results while all is in chaos.

You can probably think of groups you’ve belonged to that have clearly exhibited these different stages. If not, see if you can tell the next time you’re in a group. It may be tough at first, but with practice you’ll be able to pick the stages out clearly as. Let others know about these group stages too – it may be just the insight they need so that you all can achieve more together.